Fairest of them All
For a pageant-crazed country such as the Philippines, beauty contests are like the elections—only with better-looking candidates and more screaming supporters.
Beauty pageants are no longer just a showcase of gorgeous and talented women, but a significant part of Filipino culture. It may even be true that there are no other countries in the world that hold as many beauty contests as the Philippines.
Young ambitious women from different social backgrounds have used local contests as training grounds to launch their careers; while the national competitions have opened doors to aspiring new actresses, hosts, and other celebrities.
And when it comes to pageants, few come close to the prestige and glamour of Bb. Pilipinas—where the winner becomes the country’s official representative to the Miss Universe pageant.
The search for Miss Universe Philippines began in 1964 with Myrna Panlilio winning the crown. Since then, the yearly quest has become the biggest, most awaited local beauty event with hundreds of aspirants from all over the country.
Former Miss Colombia, and Miss Universe semifinalist Stella Márquez-Araneta, is the chairperson of the Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Incorporated (BPCI), the official national franchise holder of the Miss Universe Organization since 1964.
The country has since produced two Miss Universe winners (Gloria Diaz in 1969 and Maria Margarita Moran in 1973), and with Venus Raj’s and Shamcey Supsup’s runner-up victories in the past two years, every Filipino is pinning their hopes that this year’s winner Janine Tugonon will finally bring home the coveted crown.
The Bb. Pilipinas – Universe Winners was renamed to Miss Universe Philippines after Venus Raj’s placement at Miss Universe 2010,.
Madame Araneta said the Philippines is slowly reclaiming its “lofty stature as the beauty capital of Asia.”
“This batch is also considered as one of the most accomplished and is composed of doctors, law graduates, and entrepreneurs, among others. I guess the back-to-back performances of Venus Raj and Shamcey Supsup really upped the ante for Filipino beauty pageants,” the BPCI chair said.
Savoring the victory
All those months of training and hard work finally paid off as this year’s Miss Universe Philippines Janine Tugonon, Binibining Pilipinas-International Nicole Schmitz, Binibining Pilipinas-Tourism Katrina Dimaranan, 1st runner-up Elaine Kay Moll, and 2nd runner-up Annalie Forbes took their places as the winners of this year’s Binibining Pilipinas pageant.
The winners were presented to the press on Monday April 23 at the Gateway Suites in Araneta Center Cubao, Quezon City and each one excitedly related their victory moments.
Annalie and Elaine were both shocked but happy when they were called second and first runners-up respectively. “I didn’t expect it at all, because there were a lot of good-looking girls there who were witty and super intelligent. I just told myself, I did my best in the swimsuit, long gown, and it now depends on the judges if they will decide to include me or not. So I was shocked when they called my name,” Annalie told The Sunday Times in an interview.
Immediately after her name was called out, Bb. Pilipinas-International Nicole Schmitz admits to being just in awe. “I heard my name, but my mind was just blank; I really didn’t know what was going on. I went to the front of the stage, and when I saw my family happy, the crowd happy, it just hit me and I just wanted to smile! I was beaming, I was so excited!” she says.
Bb. Pilipinas-Tourism Katrina Dimaranan, on the other hand, was already thinking about getting a massage just moments before host Xian Lim announced her name. “I was talking to the candidate beside me and told her that I was getting a massage after the competition because I was just so tired. Then when they called my name as Bb. Pilipinas Tourism, I was like, Oh My God!” she says with a laugh. “At first, I thought they said candidate 30, because when they called out the top 12, 13 yung narinig ko, bumaba ako, tapos si 30 pala yung tinawag. Oh my. So when they said 13 won Tourism, I just stood there and waited for them to call my name first.”
“Tonight is your big night, Binibini 18.”
Host Xian Lim’s remarks somehow proved prophetic after he first called out Janine’s number as one of the semi-finalists.
And it was, indeed, for the 22-year-old pharmacist.
The new Miss Universe Philippines says she believes that her win was all God’s work. “When they announced my name, I said, Lord, this is your work. I was really happy, and I was really grateful that it happened, because a lot has happened before I decided to join again.
It was hard to imagine that just a few months ago, Janine wasn’t even sure she wanted to get another crack at one of the prestigious crowns. “If it wasn’t for my mom who urged me to join again, I wouldn’t have joined. My sister was against it, my cousins on my mother’s side were against it even my aunt’s did not want me to join again. Although my relatives on my father’s side said I should join again.” she recalled.
She admits her initial hesitance was borne out of fear of losing. “First callback, I slept just so that I would miss it, but what happened was, nanaginip ako tapos bigla akong nagising. At 5pm I received a call from my mom and some of my titas. They talked to me really, really seriously. They told me to join. So humabol ako. I realized that even if you try and run away from it, He will really rearrange the circumstances just so you’d be at the place where He wants you to be–and now I’m here, and I guess it was worth it,” she explains.
Tugonon placed first runner-up in last year’s competition but decided to give up her placement in order to join again immediately. Runners-up, like titleholders, are bound by 18-month contracts with the BPCI.
Winning just proves that what God has planned, it would happen,” she says.
In the crucial question and answer portion, Tugonon was asked how she felt about women who forego a happy family to pursue a successful career. Her reply: “I believe that women have the right to choose what they want. But for me, you have to go for what God has told you to do. Whatever it is, between the two, you have to do what your purpose is in this world.”
Tugonon now asks for prayers as she prepares for the biggest beauty pageant in the world.
“I need your prayers. In a competition like Miss Universe, you really need God’s grace. Please pray for me, pray for all of us, in our international pageants,” she appealed.
Supsup who was Janine’s roommate in last year’s competition said she sees Janine as a sister and praised her successor for her big improvement.
“I saw her grow. I know it wasn’t easy for her. I’m like a big sister to her,” Shamcey said in a news interview. “I hope you will give Janine the same amount of support you gave me. I believe she personifies what a true Filipino woman is—godly—and has principles the same as mine,” she added.
“We’re so alike in many ways because we share the same beliefs. So she deserves the same level of support. We might be in for a big surprise in the coming Miss Universe competition.”
Former beauty queen turned TV host Miriam Quiambao echoed Supsup’s optimism: “According to what I heard from the judges, her look can be very much appreciated internationally. So for all you know, she could be the one.”
Their mothers knew best
If there’s one thing common about the five winners, it is their genuine love and respect for their mothers–whom they credit as one of their biggest inspirations in life.
Apart from being the reason why she rejoined the contest, Tugonon says is very close to her mother. When my parents separated, I grew up with my mom and she knows everything—from my love life, my career, I tell her everything.”
When I won, I looked at my mom and she was just cool, it was my ate who was crying—it was as if my mom knew I was going to win. She was even more confident than me, Tugonon related.
“The first thing I did was get out of the gate to be with my family. I have a very big family, and they were all waiting for me—especially my mom who flew in from Australia,” Schmitz narrated. “I had not seen her for six months during the pageant preparations and the first time I saw her again I just broke down in tears. I just missed her so much.”
Schmitz said it was her mom who taught her to be independent, to speak up and never be afraid. “She gave me confidence and always told me I could do it. If there is one thing I’ve learned from my mom, its how to take care of the people you love and I just hope I can embody that and be like her for my children.”
Bb. Pilipinas-Tourism Katrina Dimaranan also said she was very close to her mother. “She is our rock. She is the one giving me and my brother strength and one of the reasons why we want to do good.
“My mom and I are like sisters,” said 1st Runner Up Elaine Moll. We do a lot of things together, and I can totally open up to her. I just respect her so much.”
For 2nd Runner Up Annalie Forbes also expressed her gratitude and attributes her success to her mother. “She is very resilient, she does not give up and she has instilled in us values we can be proud of. She always tells me to hold on because God will always be there, if we only believe in ourselves.”
As Miss Universe Philippines, Tugonon won a P500,000-management contract with BPCI and cash, products and services from Nestlé, Jag Jeans, Gold’s Gym, Avon, David’s Salon, Dale Carnegie Training Center and Entrepreneur’s School of Asia, amounting altogether to hundreds of thousands of pesos.
The night’s other winners, Binibining Pilipinas-International Nicole Schmitz and Binibining Pilipinas-Tourism Katrina Dimaranan, also received the same prize package.
Products and services from the pageant sponsors will also be given to first runner-up Elaine Kay Moll and second runner-up Analie Forbes, who will likewise receive BPCI management contracts worth P150,000 and P100,000, respectively.